Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
This Love Is Fucking Right
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and the Depreciation Guild at Lee's Palace in Toronto
Frank YangWhen last week’s The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart show was announced way back in December, I figured it would be a nice little underground thing (literally and figuratively) with myself and the small but loyal posse of Toronto shoegaze devotees in the subterranean environs of Neutral. Sure, their unabashedly retro but still nearly perfect fuzz-pop in theory had mass appeal, but the same could be said for most stuff I like but never manages to catch on – it’s pop music. It’s not difficult.
But as the early February release date of their self-titled debut drew near, a buzz that couldn’t be credited just to the shoegaze loyalists was quickly growing around the band, culminating in a “Best New Music” review from the old Pitchfork and just like that, you knew it wasn’t just going to be a handful of people staring at each others’ sneakers. The fact that the show had already been moved from Neutral to the much larger Lee’s Palace was just a coincidence due to work permit issues rather than demand, but it proved to be a most necessary move – by the time the much-feted band took the stage, Lee’s was nearly packed.
Leading up to that point were a couple of support acts, one local and one tourmate. The former, an outfit called Don Mills, were hopelessly miscast for the audience with their decidedly anonymous-sounding rock. The only remarkable thing about them was their singer’s utter commitment to his performance, with stage moves that seemed laughably ironic until you realized they were totally genuine – and then they were oddly commendable.
The Depreciation Guild were a far more compelling warm-up. I commented favourably on their free-to-download debut In Her Gentle Jaws, with its M83-gone-8-bit charms, but wasn’t fully prepared for the transformation their sound would take in a live setting. Their secret weapon – an old Japanese Famicom game console – was very much on display beside frontman Kurt Feldman and set the table, musically speaking, for their songs but its bleeps and bloops were soon drowned out by the live band’s dual guitars and thundering drums, the synthetic wall of sound ever-present on the record replaced by a decidedly organic one. On one hand, it’s sort of unfortunate that their most distinctive element was lost in the din but the intensity of the attack – while somehow maintaining the dreampop delicacy of the songs – more than made up for it.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, on the other hand, delivered exactly what was expected – twee-pop confections dressed up in big outfits of noise – but they fared less well in the live setting. The band’s inherent feyness wasn’t quite able to overcome their own sonic attack and as a result, some of the little touches that give the album enough variety to transcend its admittedly limited aesthetic, in particular the boy-girl harmonies of Kip Berman and Peggy Wang, were simply buried and the net result was a cheerful but rather monochromatic show. Though they’re not an overly charismatic bunch, it was fun watching them obviously have a blast and in particular Berman’s incredulousness at the sheer number of people in attendance – at one point he said that it was the biggest show they’d ever played. With a barely 45-minute set including encore, it’s impossible to say that they overstayed their welcome but what would have seemed like a too-short show from most bands felt just right for the Pains. I don’t want to use the word “disappointment” as that simply wasn’t the case, but they didn’t manage to make me feel any greater love for the band or the record. But I still love the record a fair bit so that’s okay.
Photos: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Depreciation Guild, Don Mills @ Lee’s Palace – February 12, 2009
MP3: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Everything With You”
MP3: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Come Saturday”
MP3: The Depreciation Guild – “Darklooming”
MP3: The Depreciation Guild – “Butterfly Kisses”
Video: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Everything With You”
Video: The Depreciation Guild – “Nautilus”
MySpace: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
MySpace: The Depreciation Guild
San Diego one-man act Wavves – who’s apparently all the buzz with blogs which are not this one – is coming to town for a show at Sneaky Dee’s on March 31.
MP3: Wavves – “So Bored”
TV On The Radio have a date at the Sound Academy on June 2.